Jesus makes his way around the entire room. He looks at each of us with the eyes of redemption and humbly bathes our feet. Some of us attempt to protest but none walk away without having been cleansed. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for him. The irrevocable action reaches it’s conclusion. The crisis in the garden, and ensuing crucifixion, is at hand. His heart is broken and soon his body will be broken. Within moments of standing up he predicts our betrayal. We ask him, “Who would do such a thing?”. Fear has a way of changing us and can make us stoop to places we promise ourselves we will never go. The first of an eventual many abandons ship. We are unravelling.
The door shuts behind the scapegoat. Jesus looks at the eleven remaining and makes his expectations known, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). Almost within the same breath he predicts our denial of discipleship. We respond to foot washing with betrayal. Our response to the love commandment is abandonment. The predictions, each and every one of them, become a reality within the span of just a few short days.
In this Easter Season we are reminded of other predictions that will come to fruition. The one who was betrayed and broken returns. He spends forty days seeking us out….embracing…..forgiving. He walks through walls and tells us not to be afraid anymore. He offers us shalom and reminds us of what we are capable of. He brings us back into the fold, the flock, the boat (pick your metaphor). He looks at each of us with the eyes of redemption and urges us to remember what he has done for us.
Prior to his ascension he promises us that a unifying advocate will come and give us what we need to share the story through word and action. In the meantime, he asks us to wait and remain united. The day he will leave us again, we will stand together just as we had on that night when he cleansed our feet. He will offer us words of comfort and encourage us to face the future without fear. He knows us too well. He knows that we are scared and full of self-doubt. He knows that the world expects us to turn on one another. He knows that we have a tendency to cling to our truths a bit too tightly and we can justify just about anything if it helps us to remain in control. We’ve been playing that game since he first breathed life into us in the garden.
“Soon”, he says,“my Spirit will come”. The advocate will pick us up, dust us off, and breathe life into us again. The Spirit will take us into the land of the gentiles and that which is considered unholy will soon be made holy. Yes, the Spirit will come and that which has become unraveled will be bound back together again.
In these days leading up to Pentecost, I think those of us in the Richmond Baptist Association andBaptist General Association of Virginia would be wise to put our pointing fingers away. Our hands are not meant to resemble guns and we are giving the world what they expect of us. Let’s stop trying to throw others out of the circle and/or making threats to remove ourselves from the family. Let us wait together in this season of resurrection and remember that our Redeemer knows what we are capable of, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Your Brother in Christ,
Rev. Sterling W. Severns, Pastor